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It is important to develop shared understandings around teaching and learning, from both perspectives, leading to effective communication and learning opportunities for students. Building a productive way of working as a team is critical to the success of a teaching team. It is important to remember that developing respectful and trusting relationships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators can take time and effort and is ongoing.

“Having that relationship with each other – being open – if you don‘t have that relationship, things might fall apart.” (Aboriginal teacher, NT).

Teaching teams can establish and build strong relationships through regular catch-ups. It is important that, in these interactions, you let the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person speak first and come with an open mind. If you strongly project an idea, they may feel uncomfortable and agree in order to avoid confrontation rather than because they agree with the idea itself. In these catch-ups, it is important you: 

  • identify common interests and share experiences inside and outside of educational setting
  • learn about each other’s motivation to be an educator
  • learn about what interests and skills you both bring to your roles, some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators will not feel comfortable reading and writing, but may have brilliant ideas to integrate culture into learning, so it is important you respect this
  • find out about the professional experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators who may have been working within the setting for many years
  • communicate clearly and check each other’s understandings so that both parties have the same expectations
  • provide time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators to respond to questions and absorb new information, as Standard Australian English may not be their first language, and they, like anyone else, will want to fully understand and consider their response before replying.
  • negotiate roles and responsibilities so that team members are comfortable with their duties

It is important that all interactions are appropriate and respectful. In many communities, this involves how non-locals present themselves through the clothes they wear, how they speak and what they do on the weekend.

“Working well in an Indigenous community setting means working respectfully. Think outside your culture and be open to teaching, learning and working both ways.” (Remote educator, NT).

‘’Developing relationships with assistant teachers, support staff, students and community members is the key. Understanding kinships is embedded within these. Take your time to develop these, don’t rush, slow down and make time to listen!” (Retired Teaching Principal, NT).

Teacher Professional standards (Graduate)

2.4 Understand and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
 6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice